Many individuals who are actively involved in CSUN spread their passions, energy, and support across several of the university’s colleges, centers, and more. One who truly embodies the spirit of CSUN is longtime booster Sherry Lapides.
A San Fernando Valley stalwart, Sherry first came to be connected through her late husband, Al. Al earned his MBA at CSUN in 1968, followed by a teaching credential. That education went on to serve him and Sherry well as they built their family-run company, Replacement Parts Industries, Inc. (RPI). After completing his degree, Al and Sherry became more engaged with activities around campus. They joined the President’s Club to help raise funds to support university goals and learn more about activities taking place around campus. There they heard a presentation from the Music department chair, who discussed the value and community impact of music education, and Sherry was moved to join the College of Arts, Media, and Communication’s Dean’s Circle.
As their business and activities at CSUN grew, Sherry and Al saw the important role the university served for the greater San Fernando Valley community and deepened their investment through volunteer work and donations. With their own experience running a family-owned company, they were naturally inclined to provide funding support for the College of Business’s Center for Family Business Education and Research. They were delighted to see the positive impact of their support on students and soon entered discussions with Bill Toutant, then-dean of the College of Arts, Media, and Communication, to determine how they might support the college. After exploring their own priorities and learning about the areas of greatest need in the college, Sherry and Al decided to create an endowment providing annual scholarships for Theatre students with financial need. The Curb College acknowledged their generosity by naming the Dean's Office Board Room and the Theatre Department’s Costume Design Lab in their honor.
Over the years, the Lapideses became increasingly involved with CSUN, serving on numerous boards and committees. Al joined the CSUN Foundation Board and was founding chair of the CSUN Heritage Society, a group of alumni and friends who have invested in the university through their estate plans. They both participated in the Dean’s Council of the College of Health and Human Development as well as the President’s Associates and are lifetime members of the CSUN Alumni Association.
After Al was injured in a serious accident, CSUN took on another crucial role in the family’s life when he started attending sessions at the CSUN Center for Achievement (COA), an aquatic and land-based therapy center run by the CSUN College of Health and Human Development. He credits the COA’s dedicated staff and students with teaching him to walk again. The personal impact of this incredible community resource led Sherry and Al to create an endowment to help others access their services. In 2004 the couple was honored for their service with CSUN’s Dorothea “Granny” Heitz Award for Outstanding Volunteer Leadership.
One major project of former CSUN president Jolene Koester was to establish a major performing arts complex at CSUN. This goal became personal for Sherry, who still remembers her first Los Angeles Philharmonic concert at the old Philharmonic Auditorium in downtown Los Angeles. “It was the largest hall I’d ever been in, and I had never heard music like that before,” Sherry said. “The grandeur of the space focuses you and lets you know something special is going to happen.” She and Al became great boosters for the creation of the Valley Performing Arts Center, now known as the Younes and Soraya Nazarian Center for the Performing Arts. They donated funds to help bring this vision to life and established another endowment at the Soraya to bring local schoolchildren to see incredible performances in the center and give them access to the kinds of memorable experiences that fostered Sherry’s love of the arts. “It’s like the show Cheers,” Sherry said of her connection to CSUN and the Soraya. “If I go there alone, I know people and I feel like I can always find someone to talk with. There’s a feeling of belonging and it’s a great way to be part of the CSUN community.”
Reflecting on her and Al’s contributions to the university, Sherry said that “giving back has been a driving force. We were very blessed with security and love, children who were successful, and so it was our opportunity to give back. I feel a great debt of gratitude that Al and I survived that accident, and helping the university is a way to give back.”
“It was a source of joy and comfort for Al and me to help the university,” said Sherry. “We wanted to help future generations.”
All at CSUN were profoundly sorry to hear the news that on June 14, 2015, we lost one of our greatest friends in Al Lapides. Sherry continues their legacy as a leading voice in advocating for the university and encourages others to consider donating and giving back. “It’s easier than you think it would be,” Sherry said. “You can start small, and everything you do will only have a positive effect, not only for you but for others.” Continuing her family’s impact, Sherry recently created a new endowment in the Curb College’s Department of Music, providing scholarships to help the program attract and retain musicians integral to the success of its leading performing ensembles. CSUN is deeply grateful for the love, devotion, and support we have received from Al and Sherry Lapides, and we thank them for their endless generosity.
If you would like to know more about how you can help CSUN, our students, and our programs, please feel free to reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’d be glad to speak with you.